On March 10th, 2012, Rev. Martin Eldred of Joy Lutheran Church and Rev. Michael Burke of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, both supporters of Proposition 5, penned a column entitled "If you believe in Jesus, support Prop 5". They support Proposition 5 because they believe it answers Jesus' call to love our neighbor, treat all God's children with fairness and dignity and stand up when one group of people is being oppressed by another. They note how Jesus reached out to a woman (the adulteress) who was shunned by her community, and lifted up outcasts, foreigners and those labeled sinners as examples of faith and God's blessing. They remind us that we are children of a Savior who has embraced us with love and welcomes us for who we are. So they conclude that those who truly follow Jesus should support Proposition 5.
But their perspective of Jesus Christ is incomplete, because the source of their wisdom, the Bible, also points out that although Jesus welcomes us for who we are, He doesn't always welcome what we do. And Jesus was always willing to reach out to sinners, he never lifted them up as examples of faith and God's blessing -- until AFTER they had repented of such sins. This forms the crux of the counter-response penned by the Rev. Tim Davis of Chapel by the Sea on March 17th.
In his response, entitled "Prop 5 supports behavior that Jesus rejects", Rev. Davis maintains that Jesus did not come merely to accept people where they are, but also to transform them from where He finds them to something better. He reminds us that Jesus also told the adulteress to "go thy way and sin no more", thus confirming that her previous lifestyle was NOT a behavior to be affirmed, but a sin that had to be forgiven. Rev. Davis suggests that the other two ministers have taken sets of arbitrary behavioral choices and elevated them to the status of protected identities, thus confirming people who practice homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or transgender behavior in their sins. By claiming Jesus affirms behavior He categorically rejects, they have isolated those folks to whom Jesus wants to reach out from His transformational power.
While Rev. Davis strictly condemns Christians who mistreat sinners as not reflecting the heart of Jesus, he also maintains that any Christian who affirms, includes, supports or otherwise sanctions behavior that Jesus deems sinful also fails to truly love his neighbor. One cannot hide behind the name of Jesus to affirm a class of behavior He rejects. Thus Rev. Davis concludes that one can believe in Jesus and oppose Proposition 5.
The bottom line -- Jesus can save people FROM their sins, but He cannot save people IN their sins.
Unbeknownst to Rev. Davis, he gets additional scriptural validation from the Book of Mormon, another witness for Christ. Alma 11:32-37 documents an exchange between Amulek and Zeezrom, estimated to have taken place around B.C. 82, in which Amulek makes it clear that although Jesus Christ can save people FROM their sins, He cannot save people IN their sins:
32 And Zeezrom said again: Who is he that shall come? Is it the Son of God?
33 And he said unto him, Yea.
34 And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word.
35 Now Zeezrom said unto the people: See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come, but he shall not save his people — as though he had authority to command God.
36 Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.
37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.
Rev. Martin Eldred, Rev. Michael Burke, and Rev. Tim Davis can all be assumed to be humble followers of Christ. All three undoubtedly strive to provide spiritual sustenance to their respective flocks. But the gospel preached by the first two seems a bit heavy on the dessert and light on the main course, while the gospel preached by Rev. Davis appears more balanced. Milk before meat does not mean milk instead of meat.